Fire Safety in the Kitchen at Thanksgiving: Students' Oven Mitt Made out of a Fire Blanket Wins Award

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More cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year. Two students’ “Fire Mitt” invention, which won $50,000 and a patent application in The Paradigm Challenge, is a quick and easy way to extinguish cooking fires.

Paradigm Challenge Grand Prize Winners

When a fire breaks out in the kitchen, people need to grab something and to put it out in a hurry.

More home fires occur on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year. The vast majority of those fires -- 87% -- are caused by cooking. Students Emma Spencer and Scott Johnson have invented "The Fire Mitt," a clever way to quickly extinguish cooking fires.

The “Fire Mitt” is an oven mitt that quickly and easily unfolds into a fire blanket which can be deployed to put out a cooking fire. "When a fire breaks out in the kitchen, people need to grab something and put it out in a hurry," explained Spencer, "Many homes have fire extinguishers, but most people do not know where their fire extinguisher is or how to use it." "Something easy and accessible is needed," noted Johnson, “and we realized that everyone keeps oven mitts in their kitchen and they usually know where they are as they are cooking.”

The Fire Mitt won the Grand Prize of $50,000, plus an all-expense-paid patent application, in The Paradigm Challenge, one of the largest youth innovation competitions in the world. The competition challenged students to use STEM skills plus kindness, creativity, and collaboration to generate new ideas to prevent injuries and fatalities from home fires – America’s #1 disaster threat.

“We are excited about winning the $50,000 so we can pay for college,” said Spencer, “but we are even more excited to have won an all-expense-paid patent application because now we can ensure that the Fire Mitt will make it to market and into people’s homes.” Spencer and Johnson, both of whom are from Bothell, Washington, now attend Arizona State University and Mesa College, respectively.

Project Paradigm, the private foundation that created, funds, and runs The Paradigm Challenge, is committed to turning winning ideas into reality. “We want to empower students to solve real-world problems and, when they do, we will help implement the best ideas,” said Jeff Richardson, Project Paradigm’s founder and CEO. The Fire Mitt patent application is filed in the inventors’ names and they retain all the intellectual property rights.

Over 50,000 students participated in this year’s inaugural Paradigm Challenge. “The number of youth who stepped up to accept our Challenge to help save lives truly is inspiring,” said Richardson. “Youth have an innate sense of kindness and a natural ability to innovate for good,” noted Michelle Lewis, Project Paradigm’s CollaborationOfficer, “and when presented with a specific problem, the results can be amazing.”

Spencer and Johnson received their $50,000 Grand Prize check at a black-tie awards ceremony at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The ceremony was attended by the other 1st place teams vying for the Grand Prize, including a team comprised of students from India and New Zealand. “It was great to meet the other winning teams,” said Johnson. “The overwhelming feeling at the awards was kindness. All of us had come together to use kindness and our own talents to help others.”

The theme for this year’s new Paradigm Challenge is the reduction of waste in homes, schools, communities, and/or around the world. The deadline is May 1, 2017 and youth aged 4 to 18 are encouraged to participate and make a difference in the world. There is no cost to participate. Lesson plan videos and supporting materials are available on The Paradigm Challenge website.

About the Paradigm Challenge: The Paradigm Challenge is a new annual competition created by Project Paradigm in collaboration with the American Red Cross and supported by a coalition of partners, including Youth Changing the World and the National Youth Leadership Council. The theme of the competition will change annually.

About Project Paradigm
Project Paradigm, a national private foundation headquartered in Los Angeles, California, aims to identify, support, and collaborate with passionate individuals and organizations to inspire, lead, and facilitate paradigm shifts in the approaches to global challenges. Learn more at Or like us on Facebook and Twitter (@ParadigmChlleng).

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Jeff Richardson

Michelle Lewis
since: 07/2014
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